In my most recent post, I wrote about how organizations cannot be expected to behave humanely, any more than we would expect a refrigerator or chain saw to behave humanely. Organizations are not humans. However, humane leaders can steer their organizations in humane directions, but only if they can avoid getting caught up in Organization-Think.  Now let’s take it up a notch. Let’s look at meta-organizations, collections of organizations whose leaders and workers share a mental model, largely unconscious, that limits humane behavior.  Let’s call it “Factory-Think.” Imagine that you were a factory owner at the dawn of the Industrial Age.  Your problem: How to create an efficient, cost-effective, profitable way to produce goods. The solution? Piece work. Workers got paid by how many widgets they made in a day or week. To maximize productivity, and to ensure that every widget was like every other widget, steps and processes were…

Thousands of studies demonstrate that leaders with higher EQ are more successful than those with average (or lower) EQ. But I’m not writing about that today. I’ve found myself reflecting on the nature of organizations, thinking about my own experiences with them, experiences that clients who work for them have told me about, and stories my friends and family have related to me. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about what follows. Think about times when you’ve dealt with a large healthcare organization. Maybe you’ve helped shepherd a loved one through a serious illness. Maybe you yourself were the patient. Did the experience enhance your sense of yourself as a human being? Or did you find yourself feeling like a piece of meat, lost in a maw of processes, procedures, and awful communication, while the people working there did what their organization told them was necessary? Think of the times…

These days, it seems we are often called upon to deal with people whose beliefs may be in strong opposition to ours. A colleague working within a large university-based medical center asked me for a blog piece dealing with this challenge. Like every medical center in the world today, hers is struggling with COVID. Not only because of the overwhelming number of cases their center has to deal with, but also because so many colleagues and patients have differing ideas about COVID, based on different sources of information deemed acceptable to their way of thinking. Pretty much everybody thinks their way of thinking is right, and other people’s views are ridiculous. What to do? Step One – Acceptance of the person, and of our shared human frailty: Approximately 100% of human beings have some beliefs that turn out to be accurate, and other beliefs? Not so much. Humility is a…

A woman with a chef hat and apron, looking very stressed. A metal pie pan is at the bottom left.

All organizations have one or more constrained, or more accurately, constraining resources, resources that limit what can be accomplished. To illustrate, imagine that in a moment of poor impulse control, you agree to bake fourteen cherry pies for a company event. You have lots of cherries, lots of flour, mixing bowls, spoons, an oven that holds seven pies, and one, only ONE, pie pan. That pan is your constrained resource. We often think of constrained resources as tangible. For example, the auto industry is currently in a jam. It can’t get enough computer chips to make cars. Show rooms are nearly empty. Want a car? Expect to wait several months. As Rudyard Kipling said, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost . . .” But some resources that organizations need are intangible. You can’t see them, but they can…

Let’s say you’re an executive coach to senior leadership in an organization that needs to redefine how to succeed going forward. The organization has had a successful past, but conditions have changed. Most organizations fail to adapt to these changes, and as a result, they get acquired or go out of business. What worked then won’t work now. (That’s why the average age of the companies in the Fortune 500 is under fourteen years.) The stakes are high. What do you do now? You ask yourself, “What leadership approach does this senior leadership team, particularly the CEO, need to embrace?” You do some research. You go to Amazon. You search for “leadership books,” and get 60,000 choices. (Really! I tried it!) “Oh, boy!” you say. “Where do I start? What approach works best?” Science to the rescue! Leadership research shows that a model called Transformational Leadership (TL) actually delivers in…

Are you anxious? Maybe not at this moment, but sometimes? Certainly. Everyone with a working brain has anxiety.  The only question is what we do to manage it when it comes to call. Anxiety is uncomfortable, so we usually prefer not to experience it. But our automatic (unconscious) brain doesn’t just prefer not to experience anxiety – it downright hates anxiety. Left to its own devices, it tries to eliminate anxiety every chance it gets. But that can create problems, because anxiety is actually often quite useful. (Yes, really!) That means that we have to learn how to recognize anxiety so that we can then determine whether it is best to tolerate and use it, lower it, or get rid of it. Why does the automatic brain hate anxiety? Well, the brain has a lot to do. It isn’t just sitting up there in our heads thinking about this and…

The Corporate Poet held the room. Four hundred high ranking, hard charging executives from such companies as IBM, American Express, and Merrill Lynch, as well as those of us who are behavioral consultants, were entranced by the poet’s deep, melodic voice. We were mesmerized by his hypnotic rhythm. Magically, the imagery of his poetry found resonance within our own minds, and took us on our own private journeys. “Corporate Poet” sounds like an oxymoron. Yet David Whyte makes a living by working with companies through his art. His passion for his craft becomes a tool for others to find passion for theirs, or perhaps more accurately, to find crafts for their passions. Whyte’s poetry helps leaders and leaders-to-be discover who they are. That may sound frivolous to some readers. In reality, to understand our deepest passions and align our behavior with them is one of the most difficult tasks we…

A young blond child leaning on their crossed arms on a table, staring at a marshmallow.

The impact of EQ skills starts young. This edition of the EQ Leader Coaching Blog reports a scientific study that is unusual in that it is heartwarming as well as powerful. This is a study that I always make sure to tell my EQ workshop and webinar audiences.  Look at this picture of a cute little kid, smiling and looking longingly at a marshmallow.  In this study, a scientist brings a four-year-old into a room, barren except for a small table and two chairs. They chat for a bit. Then the scientist says, “I have to leave for a few minutes. Here’s a marshmallow. You can eat it while I’m gone. But if you wait to eat it until I return, I’ll give you a second marshmallow.” The scientist then leaves. Some children gobble that marshmallow up as the door is closing. Others wait. They work at distracting themselves from…

Empathy is essential, both for leaders and for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusiveness (DEI) initiatives. The Fall 2020 CLO Symposium had a number of excellent presentations that focused on and extolled the value of Empathy. If you have a chance, it would be worth your while to view the recordings, at Videos – Chief Learning Officer – CLO Media.  But, paradoxically, focusing only on Empathy is likely to reduce the actual practice of Empathy. So, though the discussions were excellent, as an EQ professional I found two things missing.  Attention to the way other EQ (Emotional Intelligence) skills impact the use of Empathy Some presentations left the impression that Empathy and EQ are synonymous. They are not. As important as Empathy is, EQ is much broader, comprised of sixteen different skills. Empathy is just one of them, and it doesn’t stand alone. Focusing only on Empathy is like riding a three-legged…

A coaching client asked me one of those “right way” questions the other day. (I get them often.) In this case, he wanted to know the right way to lead his team. He worried that he would do it “wrong” and mess things up. Experienced coaches know that there are many right ways to lead a team. There are many right ways to do most of the complex tasks that are given to high performers. They don’t give jobs with simple answers to senior people.   Of course, as we talked, my client recognized that there were many good ways he could approach his leadership task. Factors we considered in deciding which ways might work best included his personality, the personalities of his direct reports, the mission of his team, the culture of his organization, and the interests of the various stakeholders, among others. He developed a well-reasoned approach, which included…